Supported by Living Streets and Walking Cities.
Living Streets is working with communities in Birmingham and other cities to help make walking the natural choice for short journeys. In Birmingham, residents across the wards of Aston, Ladywood, Nechells, Soho and Sparkbrook were encouraged to get walking more. GINA was part of an array of events to encourage improved public health through walking activities.
GINA knows that participation in fitness and social activities has a strong benefit on issues faced by abuse survivors, such as isolation, depression, low self-esteem and sleeplessness. We were excited to share walking as an effective way for survivors to increase their wellbeing.
Ours was a special walking programme, specifically aimed at sexual abuse survivors in the Birmingham area. The eight week programme was led by Afsha Malik of Bloom in Health. Afsha taught clients about ‘active walking’ and introduced a regular walking habit that could easily be adopted by clients in their own time. Each session involved breathing and posture exercises, meditation/mindfulness and, crucially, offered a safe space for clients to meet others who had been through similar experiences.
Attendees kept both walking diaries to track their physical progress, as well as wellbeing diaries where they wrote about their thoughts, feelings and confidence levels. The programme took place in Cannon Hill Park in the Edgbaston area. The location was accessible, near public transport routes and allowed the group to walk at a relaxed pace, in a nurturing environment. The group was supported by a trained support worker with experience in working with survivors of sexual abuse. We supported 12 clients in total throughout the programme.
In these sessions we shared the benefits of walking so survivors could start to adopt walking as a regular practice to increase their health, wellbeing, and form a positive connection with their body (particularly important for sexual abuse survivors).
By offering a walking group, we also reached those survivors who wanted to be active but were not yet confident to try running. The feedback from this group showed a positive impact on their increased physical activity and improved mental wellbeing. Participants also found walking as an effective way to nurture themselves and have continued to meet even though the walking program has now come to an end, which is another fantastic outcome of the project.